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Let my people go : Bible stories told by a freeman of color to his daughter Charlotte, in Charleston, South Carolina, 1806-16 /

The daughter of a free Black man who worked as a blacksmith in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1800s recalls the stories from the Bible that her father shared with her, relating them to the experiences of African Americans. Full description

Main Author:
Other Authors: McKissack, Fredrick., Ransome, James,
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1998
Edition: First edition.
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"Come join me as I take you back to Charleston, South Carolina, to my father's forge in the early 1800's. Sit with me on the woodpile as he tells a tale of faith, hope, or love."
In this extraordinary collection, Charlotte Jefferies and her father Price, a former slave, introduce us to twelve best loved Bible tales, from Genesis to Daniel, and reveal their significance in the lives of African Americans--and indeed of all oppressed peoples.
When Charlotte wants to understand the cruel injustices of her time, she turns to her father. Does the powerful slaveholder, Mr. Sam Riley, who seems to own all that surrounds them, also own the sun and moon? she wonders. Price's answer is to tell the story of Creation. How can God allow an evil like slavery to exist? she asks. Price responds by telling the story of the Hebrews' Exodus -- and shows Charlotte that someday their people, too, will be free.
With exquisite clarity, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and James Ransome -- a Newbery Honor winner and all Coretta Scott King Award winners -- brilliantly illuminate the parallels between the stories of the Jews and African-American history. Let My People Go is a triumphant celebration of both the human spirit and the enduring power of story as a source of strength.
Our hope is that this book will be like a lighthouse that can guide young readers through good times and bad....The ideas that these ancient stories hold are not for one people, at one time, in one place. They are for all of us, for all times, everywhere.
--from the Authors' Note to Let My People Go


Authors' Note
Illustrator's Note
Charlotte's Introduction
Something Wonderful Out of Nothing
The CreationMaking Choices
The FallandCain and Abel
The Big WaterNoah and the Flood
A Love Worth Waiting ForJacob and Rachel
How Can You Forgive?
The Story of Joseph
God Will Not Hold With Wrong
Moses and the Exodus

Review by Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. Slaves and freedmen in the U.S. saw themselves in the Old Testament characters and found courage and strength in the Bible stories. This stirring book shows that connection. The McKissacks retell the Old Testament in the voice of Price Jefferies, once a slave, now a free black abolitionist in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early nineteenth century. In each chapter, Jefferies' child witnesses the oppression of slavery and speaks to her father about it; each time, he tells her a Bible story that relates to their world. The child helps a runaway slave: her father tells her the story of David and Goliath. Her friend is sold away from home: the Bible story is Joseph. She hears about how her parents had to wait years to marry while her father worked to buy her mother's freedom: the story is Rachel and Jacob. A brave woman who is passing for white risks her life to save captive slaves: the Bible story is Esther. The stories keep to the order of the Old Testament, from the Creation to The Book of Proverbs. Notes at the back comment on sources and on the history. Only a few of Ransome's handsome, powerful oil paintings were seen in galley, but they are compelling, beautiful interpretations of the narrative: strong portraits in muted shades for the history; romantic, radiant scenes for the Bible stories. He says in his illustrator's note that he wanted to "draw people with brown and olive complexions, or Semites . . . to dispel the myth created by European representations of Bible characters." With the rhythm and intimacy of the oral tradition, this is storytelling for family and group sharing and also for talking about history and our connections with the universals of the Old Testament. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)0689808569Hazel Rochman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this stunning achievement, the renowned husband-and-wife team sets 12 Old Testament stories in the context of early 19th-century South Carolina, illustrated with Ransome's glorious paintings. As the McKissacks state in their introduction, "The stories are timeless treasures, universally read and honored, but no group embraced the Hebrew heroes of old more than African Americans during slavery times." The dozen tales unfold as Price Jeffries, who won his freedom in a seaman's lottery, tells them to his daughter in answer to her questions about what she sees happening in the world around her. The collection opens as father and daughter encounter a constable for wealthy slaveholder Mr. Riley and Charlotte asks her father, "Do Mr. Sam Riley own the moon?" He responds with the story of creation and tells her, "Nobody can make a slave of the moon, the sun, the stars, or any part of what God created, no matter how rich they may be. God made something wonderful out of nothing. What human being can do that?" Through the characters of Charlotte and Price Jeffries, based on historical abolitionists, the McKissacks answer the toughest questions of this troubling period of American history with stories of faith. When Charlotte witnesses an African child's death on the auction block, she asks her father, "Why is it God lets one person buy and own another person?" He answers with the story of Eden and "how God let the first people make their own choices." The story of the courtship of Charlotte's parents ("a love worth waiting for") leads the way to that of Jacob and Rachel. Each Old Testament story builds upon the one before it, weaving the development of Charlotte's personal history and the Biblical stories into a seamless whole. The volume's design further integrates the interlacing elements: Charlotte's story is set in warm bluish type, the Biblical retellings in classic black. Ransome's remarkable portraits capture the full range of Charlotte's and Price's emotions, as well as the serene dignity of leaders such as Solomon and Moses and of Daniel in the lion's den. His version of dramatic Old Testament events, particularly his vision of the creation, are captivating. Readers will likely return to this extraordinary volume again and again, knowing that the answers to life's painful questions reside in the stories of faith that have comforted others for thousands of years. All ages. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3 Up-A masterful combination of Bible stories and African-American history. Price Jefferies, a former slave but now a freeman of color, interprets the ways of God. He compares the experiences of slaves and their masters in early 19th-century Charleston, SC, to those of well-known figures of the Old Testament. Jefferies, a blacksmith, has a close and loving relationship with his daughter, Charlotte, and tells her, in his own simple but eloquent manner, the various Bible stories that help to connect the trials of the Hebrew people with their own. Every tale has an uplifting, hopeful, yet realistic moral: good and bad choices (Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel), forgiveness (Joseph), patient love (Jacob and Rachel), courage (Esther), and so on. Each one is beautifully intertwined with a problem or situation that the girl observes and about which she questions her father. The poignant juxtaposition of the Biblical characters and Charlotte's personal narrative is authentic and moving. Written in a straightforward style, the text alternates between blue typography (Charlotte's words) and black (her father's), in a handsome format. Unfortunately, in the story of Ruth and Naomi, the tribes of Israel are mistakenly described as being the ancestors rather than the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob. The occasional illustrations are powerful oil paintings in rich colors, emotional and evocative. Included are introductory words from the authors, illustrator, and fictitious narrator; notes; and both historical and Biblical bibliographies. This fresh view of how the eternal truths of life span the centuries gives this work a special place among Bible story collections, books of virtue, and the history of American slavery, appropriate for any collection.-Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Patricia C. McKissack was born in Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Tennessee State University in 1964 and a master's degree in early childhood literature and media programming from Webster University in 1975. After college, she worked as a junior high school English teacher and a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing.

Since the 1980's, she and her husband Frederick L. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Their other works included Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, a Newbery Honor, nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. In 1998, they received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

She also writes fiction on her own. Her book included Flossie and the Fox, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, A Friendship for Today, and Let's Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout; Dance, Spin and Turn It Out! She won the Newberry Honor Book Award and the King Author Award for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural in 1993 and the Caldecott Medal for Mirandy and Brother Wind. She dead of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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